Not So Great Expectations

, Larry Scholer, Leave a comment

A new report issued by Achieve, Inc. reveals yet another shortcoming in the education system, the “expectations gap.” The “expectations gap” refers to the gulf between the skills and knowledge that high school students gain in the classroom and the skills necessary for success in college or the workplace.

Twenty-eight percent of freshman college students require remediation upon arrival at an institution, and 40% of college students will take a remedial course at some point during their collegiate careers, according to Achieve. Sixty percent of employers report poor math skills among recent high school graduates, and 75% report poor grammar and writing skills.

Currently, five out of 50 states—Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia—require four years of math. While 36 states require four years of English, only six –Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia—require four years of “grade-level” study.

The cause of the “expectations gap” is the low standards in place at public high schools. Currently, according to the report, high school students can earn a diploma “without mastering the knowledge and skills they need to succeed after graduation.” The curricula in place across the country do not “reflect the real-world demands of work and post-secondary education.”

The report outlines ways in which high schools can improve and meet the needs of today’s students. In order to close the “expectations gap,” the report urges that educators mandate a curriculum that prepares students for success in college or at work. While students today choose to pursue a course of college prep study, the report suggests that such a curriculum should become the default.

The report suggests that schools encourage students to pursue post-secondary work while in high school and also that states ensure a consistency of course content statewide. States should also monitor student achievement.

While the report doesn’t contain information regarding the implementation of the proposals it makes, such initiatives may become a reality in the coming years. The Department of Education and the President have made it clear that they wish to further the reforms of the No Child Left Behind Act. The administration may expand the act by pushing it into the high schools. Such a move would increase the likelihood of implementing accountability measures that this report sees necessary.

Larry Scholer is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.